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The Making of Kind of Blue: Miles Davis and His Masterpiece [Paperback]

Eric Nisenson
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A masterpiece in its own right, this work comprehensively covers Miles Davis's 1959 landmark album, Kind of Blue. Nisenson (Ascension: John Coltrane and His Quest, etc.) leaves no note unexamined and no background detail undiscussed in his tribute to the bestselling jazz album of all time. His strength lies in his dedication to set the recording in its social, cultural and historical context. Davis was nearing the end of his bop period when he began the Kind of Blue project, and the work was eventually hailed as a turning point in jazz history, signaling the rise of space-giving modal jazz and a new approach to the genre. The bulk of Nisenson's text discusses Blue's musicians, and his minibiographies of each may be regarded as necessary or unfocused, depending on one's degree of interest. He deconstructs the legend of pianist Bill Evans and delves into his controversial playing style, spends an entire chapter on the often-overlooked alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderly and provides great detail on musical theorist George Russell's contribution to the album's Lydian focus. Only in the book's final third does Nisenson finally review the Blue recording sessions, and his coverage of them is somewhat minimal compared with all that precedes it. Nonetheless, his analysis of the music and its importance is valuable and discerning. This book has a different take than Kahn's Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece (Forecasts, Aug. 21) in that it does not spend nearly as much time on the album itself, focusing instead on everything that led up to it and its tremendous repercussions. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Miles Davis' 1959 Kind of Blue recording was a milestone in the development of contemporary jazz. (See also Ashley Kahn, Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece [BKL Ag 00]. Small world.) It was the bridge over which jazz's young stars left the structured world of bebop jazz and popularized a freer, more spontaneous and emotive style of modal jazz. In the 41 years since its release, the record has gone on to become the largest-selling jazz album in history. It led Davis to even greater fame in his rapidly developing career, paved the way for his sidemen (John Coltrane, Julian Adderly, and Bill Evans) to launch their own brilliant careers, and made lifelong jazz fans out of millions of listeners. Nisenson's book is an unusual work, combining memoir, biography, history, and musicology in one relatively short volume. Drawing on anecdotes from his friendship with Davis and interviews with the surviving collaborators, including composer George Russell and producer Teo Macero, Nisenson's work is astute and entertaining. It reveals the artistic process that produced the remarkable, iconic work of art that is its subject, further enriching our appreciation of this wonderful recording. Ted Leventhal
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Eric Nisenson turns Kind of Blue into a story that tells us much about what great jazz is and can be. It's worth reading just for the stories of how one of the greatest albums of all time came into being, but it offers so much more--a low-key but superb education in the way jazz is made and how it comes to mean the things it does." --Dave Marsh, Playboy pop critic and editor of Rock and Rap Confidential

"A masterpiece in its own right." --Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Eric Nisenson is the author of Round About Midnight: Portrait of Miles Davis, Ascension: John Coltrane and His Quest, Blue: The Murder of Jazz, and Open Sky, a biography of Sonny Rollins. He lives in Massachusetts.
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